Know what is fake news

by | November 16, 2018

Tips to help you get down to the truth of the story.


With Singapore’s push to become a Smart Nation, seniors are being prepared for the digital world. Initiatives targeted at seniors help them learn rapidly about the internet, digital banking, cybersecurity, usage of common applications (apps) and social media.

However, with the increased connectivity resulting in greater availability of information, digital literacy becomes important. We now need to scrutinise information to separate truth from a lie.

Fake news comes in many forms, ranging from online articles to text messages containing a warning, and it is becoming increasingly difficult to identify. Examples include:

  • Satirical content which may not be obvious.
  • Information, such as quotes, taken out of context.
  • Impostor content such as sites with URLs similar to Government pages or news outlets.
  • Manipulated content such as doctored photos and videos.
  • Falsehoods, untrue content created to trick people.

Both the community, and families, caregivers and seniors themselves must play a part in improving each other’s digital literacy by encouraging the following habits.

Rather than believing information and spreading it straight away, it is always best to take it with a grain of salt. Question the reliability of the information source. News from a professional-looking website is not necessarily real. By checking the reputation of the publisher or cross-referencing multiple reputable news sources is the best way to find out if news is real or not.

Never give in to the desire to be the first to spread the news. A message sent from a contact about a third-party being heavily fined for leaving tissue paper on a table at a hawker centre is hardly reliable. Rather than spreading it, checking the authenticity of the claim with the relevant authorities would be the quickest way to ascertain its reliability.

There are also warning signs to look out for. Usually, fabricated articles will also have a few tell-tale signs that undermine their authenticity. Satire sites will have a disclaimer that they are creating parodies of real events, while paid content will usually be flagged as “sponsored” or “advertorial” content.

Fake news articles are usually credited to an unknown or anonymous author. Most reputable news sources will credit articles to their respective journalists or commissioned writers. There will also be a portfolio of a journalist or writer’s work and beats covered.

Read articles closely for loopholes such as quotes from persons of little credibility. Sometimes, these ‘experts’ are people who are hardly qualified to speak on the matter. Articles may also feature survey results with no mention of sample size or polling methods.

Caregivers or family members can also help by sitting down with seniors and discussing news that they have read online recently, in order to understand the kind of information they have been digesting online. From these discussions, they can gauge how susceptible they are to fake news.

Remind them that fake news is common and spreads quickly through the Internet. Tell them to always question the reliability of the things they read, and to not share unverified information. This will not only help reduce the spread of fake news to their peers and family, but will also reduce the chance of them falling for other dangers such as phishing sites and online scams.

Most importantly, along with the rest of the family, be a pillar of support for and assist not only them, but the whole family in checking or verifying information when possible.


(** This article has been contributed by the Media Literacy Council who in the months of November to December 2018 is organising the Better Internet Campaign which focuses on helping seniors identify and understand the threat of fake news. Useful resources such as tip-sheets and articles targeted at different age groups can be found at the Better Internet Campaign website.)


(** PHOTO CREDIT: rawpixel on Unsplash)




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